By Christina Leach Phillips

Correspondent

GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Nine years ago, Raymond “Ray” Thurston started driving a Frito-Lay truck making door-to-door deliveries as a route sales representative in theJacksonvillearea.  On June 10, he was honored by PepsiCo Chairman and CEO, Indra Nooyi, and inducted into the President’s “Ring of Honor” for top sales performers worldwide during a ceremony at PepsiCo headquarters in Purchase, N.Y.

Deanna McKinley, Media Spokesperson for PepsiCo, which owns the Frito-Lay brand, said, “The ‘Ring of Honor’ is the highest award possible for someone who is part of Pepsico’s sales force.  We have over 85,000 people worldwide in the sales force at Pepsico, and only about 200 are given this award every year.”

What does it take to be a top “chip” salesperson?

Thurston, 40, a Green Cove Springs resident who is now a District Sales Leader, gives credit to his team.

“I had a great team working for me.  A lot of my success actually came from the hard work and dedication of my employees to do their jobs well and the great relations with their customers,” he said.

Thurston, whose zone includes an area from St. Augustine to Palatka and Waldo, has 13 delivery route people who report to him.

“I help them set up and fill stores, call on managers of the stores in those areas making sure customers are serviced,” he said.

Thurston said that Frito-Lay products, which include Lays, Doritos, Ruffles, Cheetos, Fritos, and Rold Gold pretzels, among others, are popular with local merchants. “A lot of people want to have the product in their stores.”

“Basically, if you walked into your local Publix and started at the beginning of the chip aisle and go until you see the private label — everything in that section is owned by Frito-Lay,” he said.

When asked if there is one chip that sells more than the others, he said, “Classic Lays is our biggest seller by far.”

According to Thurston, the potatoes that make the Frito-Lay potato chips sold in Florida are grown and manufactured here and come from six farms inHastings,Fla., as well as about 24 other farms in the state.

“The potatoes are picked there (Hastings) and sent to a plant in Orlando, processed and bagged and then sent back to every place in the state ofFlorida, and we put them in the stores.”

The plant in Orlando also makes other Frito-Lay snacks, including the chips that are made from corn.

Thurston said that he does not have a favorite chip or snack.  “You always like the new one when it comes out.”

On driving a Frito-Lay truck, he said, “Constantly, people will walk up to the truck and say ‘Hey, can you sell me some chips?’  Basically, we suggest that they go inside and buy from the store.”

PepsiCo said that nominations for the President’s “Ring of Honor” were based on sales performance, outstanding customer service, and exceptional leadership.

Thurston describes his sales technique:  “Basically getting to know the customers and going in to talk with them about their day-to-day business and seeing what we can do to help improve on their business,” he said.

Thurston is one of only 40 people at Frito-Lay who won the award in its over 20,000 person sales force, according to McKinley.

“In order to win this award, you’ve got to be the ‘best of the best,’” she said.

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